A walk in the NZ bush could change your mind about that pretty fast. Our
second trip to Hobbiton was like Scotts trip to the South Pole, in that a lot of effort
was expended for minimal result. Im thinking here more of the expedition Scott sent to
collect Emperor Penguin eggs in midwinter. (Emperor penguins lay their eggs in winter so they
can huddle on them all winter, a fat feathery insulating mass occupying an ecological niche
that no-one else wants.) After weeks of dragging sleds through perpetual Polar darkness in
minus-60-degree blizzards, the party was able to collect some eggs, which turned out to have
little scientific value.
We started out under more promising condtions: fine sunny day, etc. and a
mere 2 or 3 miles to walk, maybe 400 metres of climbing. We had maps, compass, and a good idea
of where Hobbiton was, so off we went, Cameraman and I.
As we climbed, we laughed about those poor slobs who thought that waiting
in a line for days to see The Phantom Menace" was "really living." But no,
this was life! This was commitment to a cause!
This was almost trackless bush: Goats and pigs make tracks, but you
cant rely on them to be heading for Hobbiton. Still we enjoyed ourselves, the birds were
singing, the bush was pretty but full of supplejack. Supplejack is a vine that grows at
ankle and neck height, and is usually concealed by fallen fern-fronds. We felt like ants
climbing through knitting.
It was easy enough to keep our bearings by the sun, but curiously, no matter
how often we checked, we had always gone off course! As we avoided the supplejack, our
journey started to resemble the hobbits attempts to get out of the Old Forest. The contours
meandered like nothing on the map, the worst deadfalls and tangles always barred us from the
line we needed to travel, ridges and gullies impeded us. Anything we grabbed hold of or stood
on, even huge logs, crumbled to dust at our touch; conversely, tiny stringy bits of tangly vine
would prove unbreakable. After a few hours of this, we didnt care where we were, just so
long as it was out of the forest. I must give Cameraman credit for his unfailing good spirits.
Not too many people would have managed it.
So it was a bit of a bad hair day by the time we got out the other side of
the bush, but we were not too far from where something was being built. Merely a kilometre or so,
a bit less than a mile, across open fields. We looked at it through the telephoto, and felt totally
underwhelmed. A road leading to a bare levelled patch of dirt with a few cars and shipping containers
parked on it. Great.
We took a few photos (see for yourselves) and waited for somebody to do something
more interesting than drive in or out. We left pretty soon; because we refused to go in the forest
again we had to walk home the long way, it was about a zillion miles. Fun day overall, though. If
you want to have a go at doing this, once something actually gets built out there, let us know.
While we're in the Shire, we'll include these very fine photos sent to
us by CAMERAMAN, who took these pictures of a foggy morning overlooking
Matamata (just north of Hobbiton) They reminded us of the barrow-downs
in the mist.